What Does Alcohol Do to Your Veins and Your Circulatory System?

There are various studies that claim varying positive benefits of alcohol for humans. This, however, only refers to when people drink alcohol in moderation, meaning no more than two glasses of beer, wine, or other alcoholic beverage a day, depending on your weight and gender.

On the other hand, it is very well-known that too much alcohol can have harmful effects on your body. Drinking too much can cause damage in the brain, digestive system, kidneys, and even your reproductive organs.

What isn’t well-known is that drinking too much can also affect your heart and your veins. 

Alcohol’s Effects on the Circulatory System

What does alcohol do to your veins and the rest of your circulatory system? The answer can surprise many, as some of these conditions are rarely felt. A healthy circulatory system depends on a heart that beats and otherwise functions properly. Both binge-drinking and long-term drinking can affect the heart severely.

Close-up two men clinking glasses of whiskey drink alcohol beverage together at counter in the pub

Effects on the Heart

Alcohol has been shown to cause cardiomyopathy, a condition where the muscles in your heart stretch and droop. When this occurs, your heart is not able to pump blood throughout your body as well. This interruption in blood flow can result in various organs becoming damaged.

Alcohol has also been shown to cause arrhythmias. Drinking too much alcohol can cause your heart to beat irregularly and/or too quickly. This abnormality in heart rate is called an arrhythmia.

Effects on Blood

There is plenty of evidence that suggests that too much alcohol in your body can negatively affect your blood itself. There are two major effects that alcohol can cause.

The first concern of heavy alcohol consumption is an increased risk of a stroke. Strokes can occur when there is not enough blood reaching the brain. Alcohol can contribute to this condition in various ways, whether by lowering your blood pressure or by negatively affecting your body’s natural clotting process. 

Effects on Veins

In particular, alcohol can affect how your veins function, which in turn affects how the rest of your circulatory system operates. One of the most common alcohol effects on blood vessels is hypertension or high blood pressure. However, not many drinkers realize they even have this condition.

Drinking too much alcohol, whether over a long period or in a single sitting, can release hormones and/or affect the muscles in your veins, causing them to constrict. When your blood vessels become narrower, the heart needs to work harder in order to move blood around your body. This causes your blood pressure to rise.

High blood pressure can be dangerous if left untreated, as it can significantly increase your risk of stroke, heart disease, vascular dementia, and chronic kidney disease.

High blood pressure can also cause smaller vessels to plug up entirely. This, in turn, can starve skin cells of oxygen, resulting in red and blotchy skin.

Does Alcohol Constrict or Expand Veins?

There is some confusion on how exactly alcohol affects your veins. Does alcohol constrict blood vessels or cause them to expand? The answer is both, depending on how much you consume.

At levels of initial intoxication, alcohol works as a vasodilator, causing blood vessels to relax and expand. However, at extremely high levels, alcohol works as a vasoconstrictor, causing veins to tighten and constrict. Both of these conditions can negatively affect your blood pressure.

The amount of alcohol needed to produce these effects varies depending upon your age. If you are 35 or over, even a single glass of alcohol can negatively affect your blood pressure.

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If you or a loved one is struggling with alcoholism, help is available. Contact Steps Recovery Centers today and receive the help that you need.